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Robinson v. State

United States District Court, D. Nevada

June 25, 2019

ALAMA ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
STATE OF NEVADA, and COUNTY OF LYON, Defendants.

          ORDER

         Before the court is defendant State of Nevada, Division of Public and Behavioral Health's (the “Division”) motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 57). Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 63) and the Division replied (ECF No. 65). Also before the court is defendant Lyon County's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 58). Plaintiff responded (ECF No. 64) and Lyon County replied (ECF No. 70). For the reasons discussed below, the motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 57, 58) are granted.

         I. BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This is an action arising under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e. The case alleges causes of action for racially hostile work environment, discrimination, retaliation, and intentional interference with contractual relations (against Lyon County).

         Plaintiff is a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor. In 2015, Plaintiff contracted with the Division to provide services in the Lyon County Jail as a member of Lyon County's Forensic Assessment Services Triage Team (“FASTT”). FASTT teams are collaborative initiatives intended to increase mental health treatment for incarcerated people and those at risk for incarceration. The State does not own, operate, or supervise the Lyon County Jail and FASTT is not a State-run program. Partnership Carson City (“PCC”), a private, non-profit organization started the first FASTT program in Carson City. PCC contracted with Community Counseling Center (“CCC”) of Carson City, another private, non-profit, to staff the FASTT team with mental health professionals. Plaintiff became involved with the FASTT team in Carson City through his previous job at CCC.

         In 2015, Lyon County expressed an interest in starting a FASTT program. According to plaintiff, personnel from Lyon County and the Division observed the FASTT program in Carson City and asked plaintiff to help start the program in Lyon County. The Division offered to fund a position for a caseworker to support Lyon County's efforts. The Division did not have anyone with the particular skills to fill this role, so it created a contract position. Tina Gerber-Winn, Agency Manager of the Division, confirmed that the contract was offered to plaintiff because of his specialized experience with a FASTT program.

         Plaintiff provided services under contract as a counselor in Lyon County Jail from July 2015 to March 2016. His contract provided that he was eligible to bill the Division for forty hours per week at $23.80 per hour for his counseling services. He spent most of his time with the FASTT program, but occasionally provided counseling services for the Mobile Outreach Safety Team (“MOST”). During this time, plaintiff also provided counseling services through Rite of Passage, a private, non-profit organization.

         Plaintiff alleges that during the eight months he provided services in the Lyon County Jail, he was discriminated against based on race and sex. In particular, he alleges that Deputy Casey Johnson, a County employee, made discriminatory remarks to him. He contends he was denied access to areas of the jail and forced to wait unreasonable periods of time for interior security doors to be opened. Plaintiff further alleges that Lyon County personnel accused him of having inappropriate boundaries with women, which led to Lyon County no longer allowing him to provide services in the Jail. Plaintiff alleges that the Division failed to prevent the harassment and discriminated against him by transferring him to Carson City for one to two weeks.

         On October 5, 2017, Plaintiff, Alama Robinson, filed a complaint against the State of Nevada under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1.) On November 11, 2017, the State of Nevada moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (ECF No. 6.) After a hearing on the State's motion to dismiss, the court dismissed, with prejudice, plaintiff's § 1983 claim and dismissed, without prejudice, plaintiff's Title VII claim. On January 17, 2018, plaintiff filed a First Amended Complaint naming both the State of Nevada and Lyon County as defendants. (ECF No. 19.)

         In the First Amended Complaint, plaintiff asserts four causes of actions, specifically, plaintiff alleges hostile work environment/discrimination, discrimination, retaliation, and intentional interference with contractual relations under state law. (See id.) The State of Nevada then filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim. (ECF No. 23.) The court denied the motion without prejudice. (ECF No. 42.) Discovery concluded in this matter on November 27, 2018. (ECF No. 55.) Both defendants now move for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 57, 58.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Summary judgment shall be granted “if the movant shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact lies with the moving party, and for this purpose, the material lodged by the moving party must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970); Martinez v. City of Los Angeles, 141 F.3d 1373, 1378 (9th Cir. 1998). A material issue of fact is one that affects the outcome of the litigation and requires a trial to resolve the differing versions of the truth. Lynn v. Sheet Metal Workers Int'l Ass'n, 804 F.2d 1472, 1483 (9th Cir. 1986); S.E.C. v. Seaboard Corp., 677 F.2d 1301, 1306 (9th Cir. 1982).

         Once the moving party presents evidence that would call for judgment as a matter of law at trial if left uncontroverted, the respondent must show by specific facts the existence of a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). “[T]here is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). “A mere scintilla of evidence will not do, for a jury is permitted to draw only those inferences of which the evidence is reasonably susceptible; it may not resort to speculation.” British Airways Bd. v. Boeing Co., 585 F.2d 946, 952 (9th Cir. 1978).

         III. DISCUSSION

         The Division moves for summary judgment on the basis that plaintiff was an independent contractor and therefore precluded from recovery under Title VII. Lyon County also argues that it was not plaintiff's employer and plaintiff was an independent ...


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